A “prolific” offender who once claimed his addiction to sickening images of children was “untreatable” downloaded indecent photos because it was “his way of reacting to stressful situations’’, a court has heard.
arey Lyons – one of Northern Ireland’s worst sex offenders and described by his own barrister as a “wholly inadequate individual” – narrowly avoided prison on Friday.
He has a long history of sexual offending, and was convicted of indecent assaults when aged just 15.
The 64-year-old, of the Simon Community Hostel, Bond’s Hill in Derry, was handed a two-and-a-half-year sentence suspended for three years after pleading guilty to 15 charges of possessing indecent images of children.
Lyons further admitted a single specimen count of possessing a prohibited image of a child.
Belfast Crown Court heard Lyons has four entries for breaching court orders, including breach of licence for sex offences and breaching the terms of a Sexual Offenders Prevention Order (SOPO) in 2008, 2018 and 2021.
Defence barrister Mark Barlow said the motivation behind Lyons’ breaching of SOPO orders and downloading of indecent images is “his way of reacting to stressful situations which he can’t deal with”.
“From my perspective, he is better off in custody. He is a wholly inadequate individual and when he is unable to cope he breaches his SOPO or downloads unlawful images.”
The court heard that in January 2018, Lyons was living at a hostel in Belfast’s Ventry lane when a social worker observed him looking at a computer monitor.
When challenged, Lyons replied: “I have received permission from Probation,” saying he bought the computer the previous day for £700.
Prosecution lawyer Gareth Purvis said Probation Service were contacted and detectives from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch later searched his room.
He told Judge Geoffrey Miller KC the computer, an external hard drive and a memory stick were seized for examination.
Experts uncovered 359 indecent images of children, with 74 in the highest category and 51 in the middle category. They also found 160 prohibited images.
The court heard Lyons has a “significant and extremely relevant” criminal record dating back 50 years.
He was convicted of indecent assaults on both female and male children in 1973 when the defendant was 15 years old.
His first conviction for possessing indecent images was in 2000 with further convictions for similar offending in 2005, 2013 and 2017, and the four entries for breaching court orders.
He added that when caught with the computer, Lyons was in further breach of a SOPO and a court sentenced him to 12 months in custody.
Lyons appeared in court 2021 for a further SOPO breach and was sentenced to 12 months on probation.
Mr Barlow, his defence barrister, said that in the five years since his detection, “there has been no evidence that he has downloaded unlawful images”.
A medical report stated that Lyons “struggles to cope on his own in order to be detected and to bring him back to the attention of the criminal justice system”.
Judge Miller said: “This defendant, by virtue of his antecedents and his breaches of SOPOs, has a high level of interest in this unlawful material. He is a prolific offender.
“He is a complex individual who prefers to have no community involvement and no friendships. He appears to be entirely reliant on external controls rather than self control to monitor and curb his impulse to offend.
“Without those support mechanisms, he will continue to commit offences with the inevitable result that he will spend more time in custody.
“He continues to pose a challenge to his offender management but there are signs that he has not downloaded unlawful image in the last five years which does provide some hope that he has taken on board the treatment programmes.’’
Lyons was one of the first people to be convicted of having indecent images of children when he was caught in 2000 following a tip-off to the RUC from Greater Manchester Police.
When police raided his then home in Newtownabbey, they found 50,000 still and moving images of children being sexually abused hidden beneath his bed.
During a police interview, the paedophile told officers: “I’ve been a bad boy. There’s stuff on my computer that there shouldn’t have been.”
The sentencing hearing in another case against the paedophile in 2017 was told he admitted to his probation officer he had a “long-term interest in children… and there may not be any treatment which will change this”.
On Friday, in the latest case, Lyons was made the subject of a SOPO for 10 years and was placed on the sex offenders’ register for the same period.